The Railroad – What it is, What it Does, and Our Journey Toward Automation

Dan Plonk – Director of Transportation Application Planning, Norfolk Southern Corporation


Dan Plonk is the Director of Transportation Application Planning for Norfolk Southern Corporation. Dan earned his BS in mechanical engineering (1983) while a starting offensive lineman for the University of Florida. He continued his engineering studies at the Georgia Institute of Technology graduating with a MSME (1985) and completed his MBA at Virginia Tech (2001). In 1991, he joined Norfolk Southern Corporation (NSC) doing artificial intelligence work developing highly acclaimed expert systems that simplified locomotive maintenance. Dan was named a Director in operations (2003) where his group was responsible for the systems and analytics that ran and monitored a 20,000-mile rail network. His group developed the world’s first operational train movement planner, a locomotive fleet sizing model as well as an optimizer for network-level train operating plans. In 2009, Dan led a group of peers to substantiate and achieve a dramatic halt in planned coal car purchases thus avoiding over $300M in capital expenditure. In mid-2015, he was tasked with starting NSCs first foray into data analytics focusing initially on the 25000+ devices that make up the rail IOT network.